By Hilary H. Hosmer
When Bedford’s Selectmen addressed the new turf playing fields at their monthly meeting on May 6, the key issues were what to charge renters and who should receive the income. Selectman Michael Rosenberg emphasized the importance of making the fields a revenue-generating resource, as promised at Town Meeting last fall. Since artificial turf can support more intense field usage, it will allow more rentals and, potentially, more income. The Board agreed to investigate further so that rates and policies can be announced before the fields are available for rental in September.
Rosenberg estimated that summer rentals of just three hours a day will bring in $15,000 a year, based upon what other towns with artificial turf now charge. He proposed that these rental monies go into the town’s General Fund to offset town costs for the turf. Selectman Caroline Fedele and Ben Thomas from the Board of Finance reminded the group that field rental funds normally go into the Recreation Revolving Fund or into a school field maintenance fund.
Rosenberg reviewed other towns’ artificial turf rental rates. Most have an hourly charge of $70 to $175, with an additional charge for lighting at night. Hourly fees are frequently lower for local residents than for out-of-town groups. In addition, most towns have a $5 to $40 annual individual participant fee to defray the cost of replacing the artificial turf every decade.
“What do we charge now for lights?” asked Selectman Mark Seigenthaler. Town Manager Rick Reed noted that often there is no charge for lighting because the power comes from different sources with separate meters, primarily Town Hall and the schools. The five selectmen discussed how to come up with one hourly rate for lighting the artificial turf fields at night, weighing whether it should be consistent with other field lighting charges (for softball fields, for example), or should be higher. Rosenberg reminded the Board that lighting costs will include more than energy.
Reviewing Bedford’s proposed charges, Rosenberg agreed with $15 /per person to “ease in” charging for field maintenance. He also considered $20/person “palatable.” However, he recommended postponing Bedford’s recreation participant fees until spring because fall recreation fees have already been published. Rosenberg also wondered whether the hourly rate should be a flat fee or whether there should be incentives to rent at less popular hours. He expressed concern that $150/hour for out-of-towners may discourage this group at the beginning, when we are trying to build up a revenue base. Fedele cited an athletic director who pays $150 to rent just 1/3 of a field.
In the end, the Board agreed to do further research into the issues around renting the artificial turf playing fields.